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COPE raises LRC’s failure to collect Rs 2 bn, lawyer drawing two salaries



Top management of the Land Reforms Commission (LRC) before the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) pic courtesy parliament

The Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) has directed the Land Reforms Commission (LRC) to take action against an employee for drawing two salaries. During recent COPE proceedings, chaired by Prof. Ranjith Bandara, the top management of the LRC was questioned on an attorney-at-law who had received two salaries while also serving as an investigative officer. The COPE directed the LRC to recover Rs 1.7 mn and other allowances from the lawyer and conduct a disciplianary inquiry.

The COPE also discussed the failure on the part of the LRC to collect two billion rupees ifrom various government institutions.

The COPE took up several issues with the LRC while instructing Secretary Land Ministry Chulananda Perera to update the Land Reform Commission Act and take necessary measures to restructure its operations. The watchdog committee has asked Perera to submit a report within six weeks in this regard.

The LRC appeared before the COPE on Oct 21 when the latter examined the Auditor General’s report for the year 2020 and its current performance.

The Committee gave several recommendations to the commission and it was decided that the Land Reform Commission be summoned before it again within three months to look into the implementation of those recommendations.

Expressing concerns over the transferring of a particular land the COPE chairman has called for a report on land transfers during past 20 years within a month.

It also recommended setting up a task force to identify and estimate the value of land and recommended that the secretary to the Ministry report to the COPE within two weeks the details of the responsibilities assigned to the task force. The Committee recommended the appointment of the Surveyor General or his representative as well as the Government Assessor or his representative for this task force.

Furthermore, the parliamentary watchdog discussed about the “2018 project to

distribute 10,000 plots of land” and (Prof.) Ranjith Bandara, the chairman of the COPE, recommended that a detailed report on the progress of this be given to the committee. In particular, he recommended that the 214 people recruited on a temporary basis for this project should be discussed with the management department and a definite final decision should be taken to include them in the approved number of employees, and if necessary, they should be referred to the Cabinet for approval.

The COPE also recommended to include the procedure of the Land Reform Commission in a national policy on land distribution and make necessary arrangements.

It also suggested the updating of the 50-year-old Land Reforms Commission Act to suit the present-day context.

Furthermore, the Committee on Public Enterprises recommended that within two weeks, the Organic Fertilizer Project, which was initiated by the Land Reform Commission and has been temporarily paused at a cost of 350 million rupees, should be transferred to a state agency which has the knowledge of fertilizer products.

The missing files of the Land Reforms Commission were also taken into discussion and the COPE Committee informed the commission to immediately submit the missing files to the Auditor General.

The Committee also recommended that immediate action should be taken to resolve the existing issues regarding the beneficiaries identified earlier under the statutory assignments.

The Auditor General’s opinion on the financial statements of this commission has been disclaimed for about 10 years, the notice was given to prepare the financial statements correctly and arrange for the annual reports to be tabled in the parliament within 3 months.

COPE recommended to take action against the alleged company to recover the amount of 17 million rupees paid to a private computer company for the creation and development of a fully integrated computer system and to take disciplinary action against the officials involved in the matter.

Furthermore, the COPE committee also recommended to take legal action within two weeks to recover the amount of nearly 12 million rupees for the 6 acres of land assigned to a private company without a tax deed in the Homagama area. It was also instructed to inquire and report to the COPE regarding not making an agreement and charging 4% instead of 6% of the assessed value.

COPE recommended that disciplinary action be taken against the officials concerned for renting the building where the head office of this commission is run, exceeding the government assessment from the year 2016 without a rental agreement, contrary to the decision of the Cabinet and that immediate steps be taken to move the office to a government building.

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President requests the opposition to support the implementation of the IMF agreement




President Ranil Wickremesinghe urged the Opposition to unite and disregard political differences to assist in carrying out the IMF agreement, which would aid in the development of Sri Lanka’s economy.

The President emphasized that his duty is not to condemn previous administrations but to concentrate on the development of the country. He also declared his dedication to constructing a better future by creating laws and frameworks that prevent the recurrence of past errors.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe delivered this message in a special address to Parliament this morning (22) regarding the receipt of the Extended Credit Facility from the International Monetary Fund.

He stated that despite allegations being leveled against him that his objective was not to rescue the country from an economic crisis but to safeguard the Rajapaksa family, the international community had acknowledged his efforts to carry the country across the economic vine bridge.

The President further said that he had faith in rebuilding the beloved country where he was born, brought up and educated, and said that many past experiences were the reasons for confirming that faith.

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SJB, JVP move SC against Finance Secy. for contempt of court



The main Opposition, Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB), and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) yesterday (21) moved Supreme Court against Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardana over his failure to provide funds required by the Election Commission to conduct the Local Government polls, ignoring an interim order issued by the apex court, on 03 March.

Ranjith Madduma Bandara, MP, is the petitioner for the SJB and Vijitha Herath, MP, moved court on behalf of the JVP, the leading party in the Jathika Jana Balawegaya (JJB).

Two Opposition parties declared action against Siriwardana the day after the Freedom People’s Alliance (FPA) issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Finance Secretary to release the funds.

EC Chairman Nimal Punchihewa is on record as having said that in spite of SC directive he didn’t receive fresh funding.

The petitioners sought the issuance of summons on Siriwardana for contempt of court over failure to carry out its interim orders, given on 03 March.

The petitioners want the Finance Secretary punished in terms of Article 105 (3) of the Constitution.

The SJB stated that Siriwardana had refrained from carrying out the March directives, on the basis of a Cabinet decision, taken on 13 Feb., 2023. The SJB also pointed out that the offensive conduct of the Treasury Secretary, inter alia, causes grave prejudice to the esteemed authority of the Supreme Court and in turn disturb the public confidence in the authority of the highest Court in the country. (SF)

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Minister indicates reduction in fuel prices in April



Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekara told Parliament yesterday that fuel prices would be reduced considerably according to the fuel price formula at the next fuel price revision, due in April.

The Minister said that the government would be able to procure fuel shipments, at lower prices, during competitive bidding, with the receipt of the IMF bailout.

There had been practical issues, and problems, in opening Letters of Credit, and obtaining credit facilities, in the recent past, as Sri Lanka could not give a guarantee to fuel suppliers, Minister Wijesekara said.

“We could not open LCs and obtain credit facilities when procuring fuel. After the IMF bailout, we will be able to procure fuel at lower prices during competitive biddings. We will be able to obtain a long-term credit facility as well. Fuel prices in the global market seem to have declined and the rupee has also gained strength against the US Dollar. Having considered all these factors, fuel prices will be reduced by a considerable margin which could be felt by the people,” he said.

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